Fear gave in to anger. Without thinking, Rabin unslung the light boy’s bow from his back, fitted it with an arrow, pulled back, sighted the tip, and let it fly.
As if carried by the Goddess, the missile sprouted in the Raptor’s right eye. He sank out of sight. The man’s companion appeared in the doorway and three more Raptors jogged behind him. The first man, in shiny body armor topped with a crested helmet, drew a sword so quickly that Rabin heard it whistle in the still air.
The man behind the first barked something that sounded like, “Lord Rehail!”
Rabin froze and dropped the bow as the three Raptor guards rushed the door behind their leader. If the second leader is Lord Rehail, Rabin thought, his companion could only be Prince Ovil. A prince to kill a prince, he thought. No, I’m no kind of prince at all. Rachim is the prince, and I’m just a bastard boy with my mother’s clan name.
Later, Rabin could never remember how he forced himself to move. Somehow, he managed to pivot and run back into the kitchen and through the smithy door ahead of the Raptors. The full moon slipped behind a cloud, but fires still lit the night.
In the smithy, Rabin managed to tip one of the neat racks of tools against the door. He heard at least one of the men behind him trip on it with a satisfying clank of armor, weapons, and whatever tools Borin had stacked there after work one day.
Besides that, Rabin relied upon his better night vision, naturally agility, and the fact he was not burdened by heavy armor. Still, he knew this was no race he could win for long. Regret seemed to rise from his belly and threatened to choke him. He wondered how he would ever get the courage to take his mother’s knife to kill himself to keep the Raptors from forcing him to tell them about the other children in the cave.
The sage had wanted him to make an enemy but had not warned him he would die of pride so soon. Now he thought that the Moquel on the bridge must have been a demon sent to trick him. Entranced by the vision, Rabin had done exactly what Del had told him not to do, and that was to attract the attention of the gatebreakers.
The boy made it to the line of trees as the guards thundered and stumbled behind him. He looked up the slope but knew he absolutely couldn’t lead his pursuers back to the other children.
As Rabin veered to the left, he sighted a low branch on a forked oak tree. His only chance was to clamber up and hide in the tall canopy of the forest. Agile and experienced in the forest, Rabin knew he was no Tree Man and unsure if he could even make it to the first branch.
As Rabin hesitated, the swiftest of the guards had burst through the treeline and headed right for him. A sword longer than Rabin’s leg flashed in the moonlight. Goddess, don’t let it hurt too bad, he whispered. Suddenly, a hard and unnaturally strong hand grasped Rabin by the back of his tunic, and he felt himself pulled upwards with a sickening lurch.